How much do you know about antibiotics? Do they kill viruses or bacteria? Have you heard of antibiotic resistance?
If you’re not sure, you’re not alone: a new multi-country survey from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows many people are confused about this major public health issue.
We use antibiotics to treat infections. Sometimes the bacteria can change and become resistant to those antibiotics. This is more likely to happen when people over-use and misuse antibiotics.
Why is this important? Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General explains, “The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis … [It] is compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases, and undermining many advances in medicine.” A growing number of infections (such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea) are becoming harder to treat as antibiotics become less effective.
When we learn more about antibiotics we can understand how to prevent the resistance from growing.
Here are some common misconceptions revealed by WHO’s survey:
- Antibiotic resistance happens when the body becomes resistant to antibiotics.
TRUTH: Bacteria—not humans or animals—become resistant. Bacteria spread, making new infections hard to treat.
- Antibiotic resistance isn’t a threat is people take their antibiotics as prescribed, OR antibiotic resistance is only a problem for people who regularly take antibiotics.
TRUTH: Anyone, of any age and in any country, can get an antibiotic-resistant infection.
- There’s nothing we can do to stop antibiotic resistance.
TRUTH: There are many ways to prevent and control infection. Regular hand washing, good food hygiene habits, avoiding contact with sick people, and keeping vaccinations up-to-date are all great things we can be doing for ourselves and our families.
When using antibiotics, only do so when they’re prescribed by a certified health professional, and always take the full prescription, even if you’re feeling better before the medicine is gone. Of course, you should never share antibiotics with others.
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